OBJECTIVES: Current models of transgene dispersal focus on gene flow via pollen while neglecting seed, a vital vehicle for gene flow in centers of crop origin and diversity. We analyze the dispersal of maize transgenes via seeds in Mexico, the crop's cradle. METHODS: We use immunoassays (ELISA) to screen for the activity of recombinant proteins in a nationwide sample of farmer seed stocks. We estimate critical parameters of seed population dynamics using household survey data and combine these estimates with analytical results to examine presumed sources and mechanisms of dispersal. RESULTS: Recombinant proteins Cry1Ab/Ac and CP4/EPSPS were found in 3.1% and 1.8% of samples, respectively. They are most abundant in southeast Mexico but also present in the west-central region. Diffusion of seed and grain imported from the United States might explain the frequency and distribution of transgenes in west-central Mexico but not in the southeast. CONCLUSIONS: Understanding the potential for transgene survival and dispersal should help design methods to regulate the diffusion of germplasm into local seed stocks. Further research is needed on the interactions between formal and informal seed systems and grain markets in centers of crop origin and diversification.